What follows is a quick and dirty plot sketch based on the photo to the left. The plot might be shoddy, but note what I have done here. There is a beginning, middle, and end. There is an MC, a love interest, and a villain. I do not waste time on too much back story, though I note things I may want to research. When I don’t know how to get from a to c, I leave b vague, providing only the most basic of information. I can go back later to fill in the gaps. By creating a short, quick sketch of the general flow of action, I at least have something to work from.
My Quick & Dirty Plot Sketch Example
- MC returns from a trip. She has been living a few towns over, working as an apprentice (research ideas for what type of apprenticeship). When she returns to her village, she finds it empty. There is no one anywhere. A stillness fills the air
- MC has no clue what happened. She did not hear any reports. There were suspicions of possible trouble because there had not been a word from her family for a few weeks. That is why she was given leave to return.
- MC wanders down the empty streets, and arrives at her parents home. It is empty. There is no sign of life. She goes to her room and finds it just as she left it. Nothing is out of place. It’s like everyone just disappeared.
- MC is walking through the ghost town. She walks to the statue garden, her favorite place, and breaks down. She cries out of fear, out of loneliness. Everything she knows is gone, and she doesn’t know why. She hears a noise and it startles her to silence. She pulls a knife (she always carries a knife – maybe this has something to do with her apprenticeship) but finds nothing threatening. A man is standing there, arms held out, showing her he has no weapons.
- MC lowers her knife, but still keeps a firm grip on it. She doesn’t know this man or whether to trust him. Maybe he has something to do with what happened here. But then, he might know what happened here too.
- Man asks MC who she is and what she is doing here. She is offended. He has no right to ask her. This is her home. After snapping at one another, she learns that he has seen something like this before. This is not the first town to vanish.
- MC and man return to town and find some mildly stale bread and cheese in the local tavern. They eat a solemn meal and man asks if she has anywhere to go. She says she isn’t going back to the apprenticeship until she learns what happened here. After an argument, the man agrees to take her with him on his travels to learn what is happening to their world.
- Travel — see stuff. Learn about one another. Uncover clues to what happened. Run into some danger. Find more and more villages that have disappeared.
- In the end, they discover that some evil wizard is responsible. He has been transporting the people to his realm to serve as slaves. They defeat him and everyone is returned and lives happily ever after.
Creating Your Own Plot Sketch
In creating my actual plot sketch for NaNoWriMo, I began in a similar way, writing down bullet marks for moments that progress the story. I then went back and filled in additional information or made changes where necessary. For example, in my NaNoWriMo project, I realized that the conflicting love interest (yes, I am using a love triangle) should be someone from the MCs past. This worked better than providing two new characters. It created a stronger emotional connection and helped to create motivation and tension. Because I have not yet started the novel, all I had to do was go back to a few places in my plot sketch and make a couple of changes. This was much easier than rewriting an entire chapter.
By laying out the plot in this way, I can easily see where the story is going. I can also make sure that I have a story arc (see my post from Oct. 13 for more on story arcs). When November 1 roles around, I won’t have to waste time deciding what I am writing or figuring out how to make my story work. I can just open up my short plot sketch, glance over it, and then get down to some serious writing.
Now it’s your turn
Do you have an idea for NaNoWriMo? Have you created a plot sketch/outline/etc.? Do you have another method that works for you? If you answered no to 2 or more of these questions, get cracking. November 1 is fast approaching.
If you need more help thinking about your project, be sure check out Wednesday’s post on choosing a genre.